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How to Import a Motorcycle

May 8, 2018
Kurt Schultheis
Learn how to import a motorcycle to avoid importing hang-ups that leave your bike stuck in neutral. Customs Brokers handle all your import requirements.

Do you know how to import a motorcycle to avoid importing hang-ups that leave your bike stuck in neutral? It's time to “get your motor running" and "head out on the highway” with our tips to make importing motorcycles a booming business for you.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a classic bike, a brand new one or even a foreign import. Importing motorcycles to the USA is a booming business. Grab your helmet and take this motorcycle importing crash course to learn how to import a motorcycle.

How to Import a Motorcycle from Another Country

When you are learning how to import a motorcycle from Canada and even overseas, you have to make sure the motorbike conforms to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) standards and regulations.

Both agencies mandate certain requirements are met before importing motorcycles to the United States.

EPA Requirements for Motorcycles Regulations

Regulations for emissions from light-duty motorcycle are the key to passing your EPA regulations.

Under Section 202 of the Clean Air Act, motorcycles are heavily regulated to ensure emissions are reduced for both motorcycles and vehicles as much as possible. Regulations must come back clean for soot, smog and other air pollution emitted from motorcycle engines.

EPA Requirements for Motorcycles Regulations
Department of Transportation Regulations

To comply with DOT regulations, import motorcycles need to adhere to federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) and other regulations. Motorcycle parts that are inspected closely include:

  • Brake hoses
  • Brake system
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Reflectors and lamps
  • Brake fluids
  • Tires and rims
  • Controls and displays
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Windscreens (glazing materials)

If you have motorcycle parts or motorcycles as a whole that don’t conform to DOT standards, you have some work to do. Amend your imports before importing motorcycles to a US port of entry.

Obtain a DOT form HS-7 and an EPA 3520-1 form for motorcycle registration purposes once you learn how to import a motorcycle. These forms help you pass the customs clearance process quickly and receive  registration to the proper U.S. state for motorcycle imports.

Avoid Motorcycle Destruction
Avoid Motorcycle Destruction

Motorcycles imported to the USA without achieving the proper customs clearance process guidelines will be sent back or destroyed on-site. For example, if you are importing classic motorcycles to USA or importing a Harley Davidson motorcycle from somewhere else, the odds are that these bikes need significant changes before they receive customs clearance success in America.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the importing information you need to pass emission testing.  Following these requirements ensure your imported motorcycle stays put and won’t be destroyed.

Manufacturing Label Requirements

Motorcycle manufacturers must comply with label requirements. Manufacturers of motorcycles must affix to each bike a label near the handle bars that can’t be removed without destroying it. This label contains:

  • Name of the manufacturer
  • The year and month of the manufacture
  • Gross vehicle weight rating, known as the GVWR.
  • Gross axle weight rating
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • The classification type of the vehicle
  • Bill of sale

International Motorcycle Shipping

When you are importing motorcycles, you need to find a reputable international motorcycle shipping company to help you move your imports. Perform the following international motorcycle shipping checklist:

Motorcycle Shipping

Are you shipping your motorcycle imports by sea or air? International motorcycle shipping companies should give you both options. Companies ship motorcycles internationally for motorcycle show tours, collectors, motorcycle enthusiasts and more.

Motorcycle Packing

Decide if you want your motorcycles packed in crates and what kind of protection they will have in cargo containers when traveling via ship. All motorcycle imports are in crates when utilizing air freight. Shipping companies use containers to ship multiple imported motorcycles at once.

ready to buy a customs bond

Roll On, Roll Off

Have you considered roll on, roll off service? Utilized by vessels, this service allows your motorcycles to be physically driven both on and off the ship. When on board the boat, the motorcycle is secured with tie downs and skids.

Door to Door Service

For an additional fee, motorcycle importers can schedule deliver of imported motorcycles directly to the customer's front door. Door to door service is a popular option for delivery of classic motorcycle.

Port to Port

If you are shipping imported motorcycles in bulk, a more affordable delivery option is port to port. This option allows you to pick up motorcycles at shipping ports or delivery terminals. You can pick up imported bikes at the US port of entry destination once they are cleared by customs officials.

Motorcycle and vehicle manufacturers are required to maintain records on manufactured products for five years from the time of the manufacture date. Importers can refer to these sources if they have any trouble when they are learning how to import a motorcycle. These records include:

  • All manufacturing documents
  • Any films or media that shows any type of malfunctions related to vehicle safety.

How to Import a Motorcycle with Valid Documents

You need the following to file for customs clearance for your motorbike imports:

  • A bill of sale
  • Motorcycle title and/or a certified copy of title
  • Funds to pay for 2.4% duty, which is based on the purchase price

Importing a Classic Motorcycle to USA

Importing a classic motorcycle to USA borders is a difficult process. While classic motorcycles stay in high demand, they are difficult to conform to the US customs clearance process. Motorcycles that meet requirements in Europe likely don’t meet requirements on the other side of the pond.

Did you know you can apply for a temporary importing compliance exemption for classic motorcycles that don’t adhere to every importing regulations? This exemption is available as long as you agree not to sell or lease your classic motorcycle until it qualifies for customs clearance or receives a permanent exemption. Work with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to see if you qualify for such exemptions.

How to Import a Motorcycle to Canada from USA

You would think it’s easier to import a motorbike to Canada from USA borders but that’s not always the case. Just having someone riding that bike over the Canadian border is not the solution.

Utilize a motorcycle shipping company to help you learn how to navigate motorcycle imports across the border successfully. The shipping company will work closely with the CBP to meet export requirements.  

You must submit your motorcycle title to the CBP 72 hours before you plan to import an American motorcycle across Canada’s border. The title is submitted to the border agent when you are ready to cross. Remember that all border crossing locations require different title requirements so work closely with a freight company and Licensed Customs Broker that does their homework before importing a motorcycle to Canada.

You know you have success when the Canadian border crossing agent stamps the motorcycle import title (don’t forget the original one) with a sign of approval. When your motorcycle receives border crossing approval, pay taxes assessed to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which are based on your motorcycle’s declared value.

Still Have Questions

How to Import a Motorcycle to Australia

Did you know that importing motorcycle rules changed in 2018 when importing motorcycles to Australia? You are now able to import:

  • Motorcycles from distributors that were not already imported by distributors
  • Using the same standards when importing motorcycles from Australia
  • Motorcycles up to 12 years of age
  • Motorcycles with up to 500,000 miles registered on the odometer.
  • One vehicle every two years
  • Costs to get Australian motorcycles to comply with U.S. importing regulations average $2,500 per motorcycle. This includes costs for new tires, brake pads, new speedometers/gauges and reflectors.

Importers can also import motorcycles without using a motorbike dealer. Another added bonus is the Australian Government has removed the $12,000 special duty on used motorcycle and car imports in 2018.

While car imports to Australia must be constructed for right-hand driving, there are no such mandates on motorcycles, which have universal controls. Only minor modifications are needed to comply with Australian import laws.

Importing Motorcycle to USA from Japan

Japanese motorcycles are very popular in the United States. Think Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha. These brands and others are popular Japanese motorcycles that need importing to the USA.

Importing Japanese motorcycles is big business in America because the motorbikes are known to be durable and safe. They also offer good gas mileage and have readily available and affordable interchangeable parts.

When you are importing motorcycles to USA from Japan, you should:

  • Check the regulations for Japanese motorcycles
  • Look for well-established and reputable Japanese motorcycle importers to do business with.
  • Finalize the terms, payment details and motorcycle imports you are seeking with your Japanese motorcycle exporter.

How to Import a Harley from the USA

Europeans love American muscle cars. So it just makes sense that they also love American muscle motorbikes, known as Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Those seeking to learn how to import a Harley from USA will need to find a cargo vessel to ship your Harley Davidson bikes overseas. While this process saves you money, it’s also slower. It can take 10-20 days to ship motorcycle imports to Europe depending on if they leave US east coast ports of entry or US west coast ports of entry.

If you can afford to spend more on freight costs, your Harley-Davidsons can ship via air freight. This method takes no longer than two days to get your import motorcycles across the pond.

Duty import costs in Europe are 6 percent for motorcycles with engines higher than 250cc and 8 percent for bikes with motor power of 250CC engines or less.  Calculate an approximately 20% additional tax that varies depending on the motorcycle’s final destination. .

Did you know you can drive your Harley-Davidson in Europe for a short time with a U.S. license plate? The only catch is you must drive that glorious American machinery straight to the European inspection authority for new inspection. There you will receive temporary plates for a five-day period and must purchase insurance.

Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Importing Inspection
Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Importing Inspection

Your Harley Davidson motorcycle imports receive a thorough European inspection before becoming allowed on the roads. These motorcycle parts receive a close inspection:

  • Engine
  • Exhaust components
  • Headlamps
  • Indicators

Remember that Harley Davidson lights must contain an ECE logo on the plastic outer coverings to comply with European importing laws. Most Harley-Davidson motorcycles do not have the ECE logo, so be prepared to purchase replacement light covers ahead of time.

Bring these import papers with you during Harley-Davidson inspections:

  • Customs clearance documentation
  • Passport/identity card
  • American license plates
  • Technical inspection reports
  • Certificate of title for used Harley -Davidson motorcycles and certificate of origin for new motorcycles.
  • Original purchase invoice
  • Proof of insurance.

These documents allow you to receive your new registration and European license plates to make your customs clearance process easier in Europe.

How to Import a Motorcycle with Valid Documents
File the Correct Import Documents

If your commercial invoices aren’t filed properly, you’re going to have a customs clearance problem. Make sure all of your T’s are crossed and your I’s are dotted on your paperwork.

Remember that your forms must be filled out in English. The following import paperwork forms are reviewed closely at all U.S. ports of entry on both coasts:

Commercial Invoice

These forms, used for foreign trade dealings, contain the minute details about your overseas products. This information includes:

  • The manufacturer (person or company making the goods)
  • HTS codes
  • Origin
  • The information of the buyer and the seller
  • Destination

Packing List

Packing lists are checklists to make sure cargo provided by shippers or freight forwarders is accurate. The commercial invoice and the packing list work hand-in-hand to help customs agents achieve clearance success. The packing list also confirms imports for customs officials.

ready to buy a customs bond

Bill of Lading

Carriers issue bill of ladings (BOLs) by carriers to the shipper of your imports. A bill of lading is critical for exporters seeking payment and importers needing merchandise. If something goes wrong with your imports, a bill of lading makes sure you receive compensation for lost, damaged or delayed goods. A list of international shipping details are in this form, which also includes a tracking number to monitor your motorcycle imports.

Arrival Notice

An arrival notice acts like your phone alert, letting you know that your goods have arrived safely. This alert happens when your goods arrive safely in the harbor of your U.S. port of entry.

Don’t jump up and down just yet though. Your motorcycle imports are only released once your customs agent makes arrangements for the pickup of imports after the arrival notice is received.

All of these documents work together to help importers with the information they need to receive customs clearance process success.

Incoterms Outline Your Transfer of Shipments

Incoterms are three-letter import trading terms used in both domestic and international sales of import contracts. These terms outline the transfer of goods responsibilities for both buyers and sellers. Customs brokers ensure you use the correct Incoterms for your goods during the clearance process.

Find Your Port of Entry

There are many U.S. ports of entry in the U.S. on two coasts where importers can import their goods. When you import bikes from USA, customs agents help you find which west coast port of entry or east coast port of entry works for your business needs.

Sign a Power of Attorney

Sign a power of attorney for Licensed Customs Brokers to:

  • Make import and export transactions
  • Make bills of lading endorsements
  • Act as authorized agents for all export activity
  • Act as guarantor for bonds required by law
  • Sign and swear to any documents and conducting actions to import goods

Tariff on motorcycles
Follow Rules from Other Countries

If you are importing motorcycles from manufacturers in other countries, it is also  important to follow those separate importing regulations. You must locate the proper import duty, or tax, for your motorcycle imports, which require a customs bond.

Work with a Licensed Customs Broker

Working with a Licensed Customs Broker allows you to clear customs during the motorcycle import process. When you are learning how to import a motorcycle, Customs Brokers handle all your import requirements. Utilize a Customs Broker when:

  • You need to import a motorcycle quickly.
  • There an importing value that exceeds $2,500, which requires you to buy a customs bond.
  • You have strict deadlines to meet.
  • You seek fast approvals with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

However, a lot of brokers like AFC International, will require bonds on all imported cargo regardless of shipment value.

Two Types of Customs Bonds

There are also two customs bond types available to you. Figure out which customs bond works best for you and your motorcycle imports below.

Still Have Questions

Single Entry Bond Definition

A single entry bond works for those importers seeking to import a single shipment for a specific port of entry. These bonds work well if you only import once in awhile and your import goods have a low-cost value. Only use this bond if you import less than four shipments per year.

Continuous Bond Definition

A continuous bond covers all of your shipments with international carriers at every US port of entry for the whole year. A US customs continuous bond is important for importers and shippers with a large number of entries that use several ports of entry annually. These bonds also handle shipments with high value. A continuous bond caters to those importing motorcycles to the USA several times a year. Continuous bonds also have an easy renewal process.

Purchase a Customs Bond Today

Motorcycle imports require customs bonds. To receive the correct customs bond to achieve customs clearance success, figure out the customs bond type you need today. We also offer cargo insurance through our network of supply chain companies. Let us walk you through purchasing more insurance that protects you and your imports.

Utilize a Licensed Customs Brokerage Service

Are you still undecided on how to import a motorcycle? Or are you looking to import cars to the U.S.?Does the importing process seem daunting? If importing motorcycles seems like a daunting task, contact AFC International today to allow our Licensed Customs Brokers to handle all of you importing issues. The unique set of skills that a Licensed Customs Broker provides can make the importing inspection process a simple one.

Our value-added customs brokerage services work together to provide you with an importing process that allows you to concentrate on your business. Have questions? Click the bottom right box to chat and we can answer you right now! Clear customs easily with us today by requesting a customs bond quote! We are here to serve you!

45 comments on “How to Import a Motorcycle”

  1. inherited a 1972 BMW R75 motorcycle (non working) from deceased brother and would like to import from Canada and will carry in my truck. Any advice?

  2. I am interested in importing a Moto Taxi from Peru. Wondering if it would be easier to strip it and just import the frame and build it here.. They are kinda crap and I doubt the original engine would pass EPA/DOT requirements.

  3. Hi
    If the motorcycle is over 25 years old but the engine is not original can it be imported ?
    I think the replacement engine is still over 25 yrs old but would i have to get proof.
    The bike is custom. The frame date stamp is 1981. There is a uk registration document dating from 1984 but the engine number on that document is different from what is on the bike, same prefix for an older kawasaki engine.The bike was previously imported into Australia but never registered there. There is an import approval letter from the Australian government also.

  4. I just move back to USA but I bought a 2017 Harley Davidson Breakout in Mexico. If the shipment from Mexico to my home is not an issue, what do I need to do to get all the documentation done before I ride in Ohio?

  5. I’m a Canadian who travels to USA for the winter. I have a motorcycle that I would like to bring down, register and leave in the USA. What are the necessary steps for me to cross the border?

  6. Hello,
    I have a 2010 Hyosung GT650r motorcycle that I am trying to figure out if I can ship it to the states. I am currently deployed to Greece.

  7. I would like to import a 2013 KTM 990 SMR from Germany to USA. I would like professional support to do so, if that is available.

    KTM USA will not provide a manufacturers certificate because it is a Euro sold version and therefore does not have the DOT/EPA classification sticker on the frame.

    PROCESS
    I can get the engine removed from the frame by KTM Koestler, a dealer in Leverkusen, Germany. The engine and motorcycle would be opackaged shipped separately, each package declared as "assemblage of motor parts".

    My understanding is an "assemblage of motor parts" without an engine is not a motorized vehicle (because it has no motor) and can then be imported without requirement for DOT/EPA compliance (because there is no motor). Similarly, the engine on its own is not subject to DOT/EPA restrictions because it is not a vehicle.

    Once past Customs, I can reassemble the parts and get the state (District of Columbia ) to inspect the bike for federal compliance testing. It will pass readily. It has all required roadworthiness fittings and fixtures, and can be fuel re-mapped (if necessary). The components under scrutiny are the same as those factory equipped on the 2013 KTM 990 SMT, which was sold ion USA as a DOT and EPA compliant vehicle in 2013 (including, believe CARB ([aka California Air Resource Board] certified).

    Let me know what you think is best so I c an buy this bike and get it done.
    Thank you,,
    Ken Higgins

  8. Hi i have a 1997 honda XRV 750 in Venezuela and would like to bring it to the US,since the bike its over 21 years old no EPA need it but what about the rest? its for personal use in Florida.
    Thanks

    1. Since you're importing the motorcycle for personal use, you won't need to file a Customs Bond. You can find all the info you'll need about compliance and the paperwork you'll need to file from Customs and Border Protection.

  9. Hey I am driving from Chile to the USA on a motorcycle and want to import my bike into america. I am currently in Colombia, so I still have a while before I'm there. Would like help before to streamline the process.

    I am documenting my trip on my website and instagram

    http://www.wheresharold.org

    Instagram - whereisharold

    1. Because you will be riding your motorcycle across the border and it is your personal belonging, you will not need a Customs Bond, however there are documents you will need to have on hand before you cross into the US. These documents may vary depending on your citizenship and whether you intend to stay in the US or if you are going to be here temporarily. We recomend turning to Customs and Border Protection for more information and to ensure you have all the documentation you'll need. Safe travels!

  10. Bought a completely restored 1974 Yamaha 360 DT in California and want to import it into Canada. We will be returning in mid Apri via Sweetgrass/Coutts Border crossing. I have CA Certificate of Title and paid $2800USD. What is the process and what do I nee to do?

  11. I want to purchase an electric motorcycle from China. Seller handles all, will ship it to my house. I am just afraid california dmv might not allow register. Thanks for any advice.

    1. We offer consulting services where we are able to help with all the info you'll need including the paperwork and document requirements, clearance customs and any duties and fees you may be responsible for. We can also help you understand the DOT and EPA requirements for your motorcycle. We will email you the details so we can get started.

    1. The model of motorycycle is less important than it's compliance with the US's DOT and EPA regulations and whether you are importing the motorcycle permanantly or temporarily. If your import is for commercial purposes or for resale, you will need a customs bond. Click on the Chat button in the bottom right corner of the page and we can help answer any questions you may have.

  12. Hello Folks,
    i purchased a 1966 parts bike in India and imported it as such and just completed it and want to register it on Cal.
    do you know what paperwork i would need?
    best,

    1. Thanks for reaching out with your question. The Department of Motor Vehicles in California would be the best source of info about how to register your motorcycle since you have already imported it into the US.

  13. You want to import an electric motorcycle from China. Door to door to my house. I have imported so many things. Is a motorcycle any different besides the vin number problems? EPA seems like they would need to do any checks and dot? Lol please help me...

  14. I'm in England on military orders and I purchased a motorcycle for personal use. I plan on air freighting it back to my home station in Phoenix AZ. Where can I start? I have the title since i bought it out right and the manufacture (Herald Motor Company) just happens to be about 4 miles from where i'm staying. Thanks for your guidance.

  15. I am looking to move to the USA (Oregon to be exact) from Australia and bring a triumph 800 XCA 2018 tiger with me that i bought for personal use. I have been informed that the TFT screen is just a computer program to change from kilometres to miles etc. I Do have some where filed away original purchase info etc. so can it be done and is it economical or is it worth just selling and buying new in the USA. Not in a rush as we are not coming back till next year but would like to know so if needed i can begin organising paperwork or a full service importer.

    1. Thanks for reaching out with your import question. When importing any type of vehicle, there are EPA and DOT standards that must be met in order for your import to be cleared through customs. You should research importing a motorcyle on the EPA and DOT website for more info.

  16. Hi! We are immigrating from South Africa to Tyler Texas. I have a 250GTS Vespa 2011 year model. The scooter is in mint condition and has hardly seen any tarmac. What is required besides the original purchase document to get my scooter in the USA?

    Our moving agent said sell it and buy a new one. I am very attached to it and don’t want to sell it.

    Some advise would be appreciated.

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your inquiry.

      On the road scooters, when imported to the U.S., must meet current U.S. DOT Safety Standards and EPA Emission Standards. Most scooters, built for other than the U.S. market, do not meet the standards. Bringing a non-compliant scooter into compliance can be very costly.

      The following link will provide you more information on the subject https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/297/kw/import%20a%20motorcycle

  17. I want to import my 2018 Triumph Bonneville T120 from the Netherlands. Are there any adjustments that have to be made?

  18. Hi, I am moving back to California and also taking my 2011 Honda Elite 125cc for personnel use, Can you email me for further information, details and process? Thanks!!

  19. Hello,

    I'm looking at moving back to the US from Japan. I want to take my 2008 Yamaha WR250R with me if possible (I've customized it a lot, and I wouldn't get my money back if I sold it here)

    I believe it is quite similar to the US model WR250R, but am unsure of the specific differences. (emissions control differences I would imagine)
    Is there anything you can do to help me get on the right track?

    1. Thanks for reaching out with your import question. When importing any type of vehicle, there are EPA and DOT standards that must be met in order for your import to be cleared through customs. I would recommend you research importing a motorcycle on the EPA and DOT website for additional information to ensure you have all the information needed.

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